Our Coastal Rangers program started out as a pilot. We wanted to design something that fitted around the profile of an ex-offender, because many employers still can’t see past the crime when deciding between job applicants.

We started by looking into possibilities around the environmental and recycling sector. My journey (or should I say quest) involved investigating open spaces in North Ayrshire. Out for a stroll with my son at the beach on a dank day in October 2014, I noticed a lot of debris, and saw that here would be an ideal starting point.

We then set out to base our work around the Ayrshire local biodiversity action plan. Next we needed to get the support of local partners and SCVO to make the programme fit within the Community Jobs Scotland scheme. Doing this would give the young men we work with a great opportunity to get onto the employment ladder.

“We should look at where a person is in their life, not where society says they ought to be”

When everything was in place we offered our olive branch to four young offenders, with support from the TACT third sector interface, Eglinton Park Rangers and NAC Streetscene.

Making sure we had a training package attached to the program which fitted around our service users was important. Through past evaluations, we knew that long days in classroom-based environments don’t work, especially if you’ve been institutionalised from an early age. So we designed short half-day training sessions, which worked at the Rangers’ pace and proved to be very successful.

My main aim was to show that you can change an individual’s life within a six month period if you and your company and flexible and have access to the right tools. One month into the program, we all took part in an open discussion about the impact of prison life and its effects on the Ranger’s personal and social lives. Our talks covered four main issues:

  • family life/how it effects everyone around you.
  • employment opportunities
  • debt/housing/pay back orders, etc.
  • social stigma

Some of the Ranger’s statements were very powerful.

We decided to capture the impact of the Coastal Rangers Programme on film. Enter Ayrshire Film Co, a new social enterprise that uses video in innovative ways to benefit the wider community. The idea for a short film was born to give a snapshot of the program and its objectives.

I wanted the program to finish on high. So far it has delivered 100% positive destinations. It wasn’t an easy ride by any means, but it was very rewarding.

I’m now sure that we need more of this kind of approach. We should look at where a person is in their life, not where society says they ought to be – this is why a lot of our current programs fail. To quote Sir Richard Branson, “business must play a role in rehabilitating ex-offenders”.

Watch out for our next innovative collaboration.